South Africa’s political arena has withdrawn its metallic edges, lowered walkways and pushed back the lions and replaced it with side-stalls, parlour tricks and illusionists as the circus called the South African government rolls into town. Roll up, roll up! Get a fresh side of hypocrisy with your medium-rare dogma, a side-order of demagoguery and Puritanism mixed with a fresh batch of blood-dipped ideology. We have the world-class clowns and puppet-master The Magical J Zuma with his little, wooden friend Mini-Malema who sits neatly on Zuma’s lap of luxury. Step right up and watch all that liberty, all those rights fade into obscurity as we fearfully give way to those too inadequate to rule but who are louder than the rest; those who can pull the magical race card out of the deck, with their gloved fingers shoved so far up the behinds of South Africans enough to poke the back of their eyeballs, turning them to see what is preferable. Please take your seats, ladies, gentlemen, children, “citizens” or slaves in neatly-lined rows as we watch both a circus-performance and a funeral, at once dressed in white to usher in the clowns and black to wave goodbye to our dignity, buried beneath the soil of our own failure to live up to the standards we had set ourselves. And behind us, the cars load up all that had created a democratic arena, some shake their heads as they grip the steering-wheels to focus themselves on a horizon that is slowly quivering into a twilight of obscurity.
I say these things out of love for a past I will never know but whose hand wrote a future I was meant to be part of. At this moment, the ANC has won. There can be no doubt. Zuma has ascended the throne of unquestionable leadership, as he also claims to know the Divine is working behind him. One must remember that with the claims of a god, the “knower” of this god can claim ineffable justification and can forgoe any sense of reason – since reason peels back and reveals an empty shell of human desire then coated within the frame of divinity, against which nothing can penetrate. Already a homophobe, consider this profile by The Times Online:
He has advocated tackling crime by reintroducing the death penalty and forbidding legal aid to those accused of serious crimes. South Africa’s gays would also be disturbed by a president who describes same sex marriages as “a disgrace to the nation and to God”, adding: “When I was growing up, an ungqingili (a rude Zulu word for homosexual) would not have stood in front of me. I would have knocked him out.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu claims “the country would be ashamed” of a President Zuma.
Zuma, already having faced rape charges (amongst currently others), is set to do a grave injustice to something else which is considered important: our sensibilities. His past conduct and his current statements are testament to a mind overthrown by egotistical despotism, nepotism and dogmatic irrationality in the teeth of a law meant to be blind, but whose blindfold is shifted ever so slightly to gaze away.
It is no fault that this is a man who sues a cartoonist – one who I consider the best living-satirist, Jonathan Shapiro AKA Zapiro. Says David Blair from The Telegraph: “No other ANC leader since apartheid’s downfall has taken legal action against a journal.” I met Mr Shapiro the night he received this notification. He simply shrugged and took it in his stride, whilst buying a beautiful Art Spiegelman collection.
Mr Shapiro is a rising voice of reason, along with the Mail & Guardian, Desmond Tutu – and others, lesser known to the public, such as the philosophers David Benatar and my co-thinker Jacques Rousseau, and the chair of my society, the physicist Gareth de Vaux. There are others I have not indicated – for which I apologise – but at the moment these are sharpest in my mind. I hope that readers take care to read their writings. As writing is currently not viewed with any love by our new president.
Consider his case against The Guardian. A brilliant article – now removed but which can be found in full here – by Simon Jenkins has three paragraphs worth quoting in full:
Despite appearances, South Africa has long been one of the few “third world” states to pass this test. Apartheid never stamped out a free press or political opposition. Its ruling oligarchy was sufficiently open that, when the time came, it negotiated its own dismantling. Under Nelson Mandela and Mbeki, the ANC was boorish and corrupt, but rarely dictatorial. When Mbeki lost the confidence of his party in 2008, it ruthlessly but constitutionally removed him.
Thus all eyes turn to Zuma. To the sceptics he is the harbinger of Armageddon, whose slogan is “Bring me my machine gun”; he is a polygamous, leopardskin-draped, Zulu boss, an unschooled former terrorist, Communist sympathiser and rabble-rouser. Already his ANC youth movement is disrupting meetings of Cope, with blood-curdling slogans worthy of Robert Mugabe’s thugs.
South Africa’s politicians can cas-tigate [sic] ministers. Judges can sentence, journalists can write, academics lecture and businessmen can trade without being shot or kidnapped. The finance minister, Trevor Manuel, is a respected figure, and the reserve bank has avoided the reckless negligence of its British counterpart. Despite a horrendous crime rate, this country is in no sense a failed state.
This article, which gives a critical, thorough and truthful assessment of Zuma, was found to be insulting to Zuma and thus he sued the Guardian. Keep in mind that this is the same mindset, which splinters off into the mouth of Zuma’s main circus act: Mini-Malema. Having said that he would “kill for Zuma” and renowned for his display of outright idiocy, ignorance and repugnant dogmatism, Malema controversially arose to the leadership of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL). Visiting my alma mater, UCT, he said that the entire education at UCT needed a restructuring. To quote him:
“We must transform this University!
We must change the council of this University!
We must also change the lecturers of this University!
The Cape Times also reported further instigations to change, to “reflect” South Africa. This man seems to have no conception to formulate coherent arguments. Stating that it must reflect South Africa does not mean it would be a “good” thing. Surely we need a tertiary institution based on the work, intellectual excellence and capabilities of its lecturers rather than the colour-palette of skins? A misreading may be my fault but essentially he is pressing for further transformation via the erroneous notion of “affirmative action”.
And consider Malema’s statement:
Don’t provoke us, it is us (ANC) who brought the nonsensical apartheid regime down. No opposition (party) will ever defeat the ANC.
We want them all to combine so that we can defeat them.
His blood-thirsty sentences are now so common that I shudder that we have become so complacent to such bullying, from one who appears to know so little. Democracy works on the principle of opposition and furthering the necessities of the people. The government is for the people – not the other way round. It is not about “defeating” other parties, or bringing them all together (as if to put all our enemies in a room, ignite the curtains and lock the door) to “defeat” them.
Perhaps if the Guardian had not withdrawn the article, Malema could have read the following from Jenkins: “The key is not the holding of elections. It is a capacity to entrench enough pluralism and dissent to enable peaceful changes of government to take place, to render power permeable.” We should be worried about such preachers for their own power, rather than the old South African slogan of “power to the people!”.
And if Zuma ascends to the heights of power, might not all charges against his dubious background simply fade into said space? As has already occured with the National Prosecution Authority (NPA), might we not see other claims find no ending sentences, empty authority, empty chairs and papers? Are we not entering a country of the blind, like the characters from Jose Saramago’s book Blindness? Though in this book, blindness is a disease and one that is spreading rapidly amongst the populace. “General,” says one character, “this must be the most logical illness in the world, the eye that is blind transmits the blindness to the eye that sees, what could be simpler.” It seems though that with blindness, we are also being inundated with silence. As Edmund Burke said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” And so with blindness, we are becoming silent. Though blindness is a lack of sight – or perhaps a severe enough amourasis – it is constructed as a disease. Similarly there is no reason why silence could not be thought of a disease, slowly spreading through my country.
As the characters say, Not all blind men are dead – but all dead men are blind. Similarly, they are silent. We are not corpses over which any machine powered by the hot air of egotism can trample over. The mission, the goal and the foundation of modern South Africa must continue to prevail if we are to enter a period ruled by this racist and demagogue. Silence must not fall and blindness must not spread. We can see and we can hear and we can speak. The tools we used to liberate our selves, which ironed out the rough road leading to the future, must now be gripped by those of a vision for all people – not black, not white, not ANC, not DA. Simply the citizens of the country who all walk the same paths and want the same fulfilment. We are a people, not peoples. Zuma must realise this – but more importantly, an opposition and those who stand against him must remember this. Pluralism, resting in the interest of open discussion. This can not happen if the ANC pulls out of constitutional debates.
As Sipho Seepe said: “Democracy is safe when the citizens are eternally vigilant.” Entering the public, plural and free society, public figures must expect to be mocked and scorned. Especially, when we have a Minister of Health who condoned vegetables as an alternative to medicine to fight AIDS; or a past-president who denied the link of HIV and AIDS. Even when television shows, which discuss nearly all the political big-wigs, are pulled we need to fight for the right to broadcast something which is satire, mockery and therefore a criticism. We are not going to bow down to anyone, no matter how big their machine gun is.
So, go ahead, Jay-Zee. Call for your machine gun and I will call for my pen. With your bullets ringing hollow in the temple of reason, we will continue to fight for liberty and freedom and equality. Things we seem to be forgetting, as we get progressively more silent, as Zuma’s machine gun makes us go progressively more blind.